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21-Oct-03 | CONTOUR investigation concludes

The CONTOUR Mishap Investigation Board has released its findings, concluding that “the probable proximate cause for this accident was structural failure of the spacecraft due to plume heating during the embedded solid-rocket motor burn.” (NASA Press Release, 15-Oct-03)

Contact with the spacecraft was lost on 15 August 2002, following a propulsive manoeuvre during which, by design, no telemetry was available. To this observer, it sounds like CONTOUR (launched on Delta 292) was yet another victim of overly enthusiastic application of the “Faster, Better, Cheaper” mantra, resulting in a lack of project oversight and end-to-end systems integration testing of the same sort that doomed Mars Polar Lander.

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